Category Archives: Podcasts 2019

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 9 – 16 June 2019

BBC Outlook  Born the Wrong Colour So I had to Die. A young South African girl is adopted and grows up in the UK. Sneaking around her mother’s room, she find the truth of her birth and what her birth mother was prepared to do to cover the shame of having a mixed-race child in Apartheid-era South Africa. Very good

New Books in History.. Amy Murrell Taylor’s “Embattled Freedom: Journeys Through the Civil War’s Slave Refugee Camp” is really cleaning up the awards, and the interviewer here is obviously a big fan. During the Civil War – when the outcome was still uncertain- slave workers took their families into the encampments of Union soldiers. Many of the men were sent to fight with the Union, while the women and children lived in often makeshift quarters in the encampment. However, there were differences between their experiences, and this book traces through different camps and how these slave women and children (not yet Emancipated) were received. You don’t have to have read the book, or even have a very good understanding of the Civil War- I found it really interesting.  It’s a shame that the book is so expensive (even the e-book is $32.00!)  and I’m not likely to find it in a library in Australia. You can find the interview here.

The History Listen (ABC) Waterloo Bay: that word “massacre”. At the small farming and surfing town of Elliston, on the remote west coast of South Australia, a memorial has been erected to the massacre of indigenous people that occurred in 1849. The use of the word “massacre” on the memorial has split the community.

Who Runs This Place (ABC). This four-part series presented by Richard Aedy started today. In this first episode The Triangle, he looks at the roles of Prime Minister, the Prime Ministers Office, the public service and the security agencies.

Rear Vision (ABC). I’ve had these two podcasts on my phone for ages, and finally got round to listening them. They’re a pair, one (Brexit, British Labour and Jeremy Corbyn) dealing with Brexit and the Labour Party, and the other The Conservative Party and Brexit exploring the Conservative Party’s introduction and fraught relationship with Europe . They take a long-term historical view of the relationship between these political parties and the EEC and EU. There was a lot that I either never knew or had forgotten (a distinction which is becoming harder to be sure about these days). For example, did you know that Britain’s first referendum was over whether to stay in the EEC during the 1970s? These podcasts might be three months old, but they’re still very relevant. What a right stuff-up.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 June

Russia if you’re listening (ABC).  ‘The Night at the Wine Rooms’ is the final episode of the series, this time featuring our very own Dolly Downer . This series seemed to run out of puff a little after the Mueller Report, but the new series sounds good – talking about Russia’s attempts to shape political reality over the last decade, not just the last few years. I’m not sure when it starts again.

Staw_angelofdeathConversations (ABC) Richard Fidler’s interview The ‘Angel of Death’ of Sydney’s Underworld with historian Leigh Straw is a good one. She has specialized in Sydney true-crime in the late 19th-early 20th century, and her most recent book is about  The ‘Angel of Death’ underworld figure Dulcie Markham, whose lovers kept dying.


BBC World – Outlook The Amateur Sleuth and the Lost Babies. Another middle-of-the-night program, this time about amateur historian Catherine Corless who uncovered the truth about the Mothers and Babies home in Tuam, Ireland, where hundreds of children disappeared without trace and where a septic tank in the back yard revealed many human remains. There has since been an enquiry and apology.

In Bed With an Assassin tells the story of Jason P. Howell, a photographer who specialized in conflict zones, who falls in love with a Colombian woman. He gradually realized that she was deeply involved with the paramilitary forces. He has to readjust his moral compass in his response to what he learns about her activities.

99% Invisible The Tunnel is about a tunnel built underneath the Mexican border, connecting the small Mexican town of Agua Prieta and Douglas Arizona on the other side. Sophisticated in its construction, it was used for smuggling drugs and was a prototype for other such tunnels built by the Sinaloa Cartel crossing the border. (Actually, the website link is so informative that you don’t really need to listen to the podcast!)

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 26-31 May 2019

Background Briefing: The sexual abuse scandal nobody’s talking about.  Putting someone you love into aged care is such a hard thing for everyone. The current commission into aged care and this Background Briefing program must make it even harder. The sexual abuse in this program is not from other patients but from the ‘carers’ in a system where providers seem to have all the clout. Carers are not registered, and there’s no mandatory reporting. What a terrifying situation to be in for people in aged care who realize what is happening.


Eustace Hamilton Miles Source: Wikimedia

Arts and Ideas (BBC) Healthy Eating Edwardian Style. This program tells the story of Eustace Hamilton Miles, an Olympian  real tennis player (yes, real [royal] tennis was an Olympic sport in 1908 only) who promoted many different fad diets over his career. He started a vegetarian restaurant in Charing Cross, (even though he eschewed the term ‘vegetarian’), which became notorious for its links with the suffragettes, who regularly ate their. Although his restaurants and health food stores prospered during WWI, his ideas went out of fashion and he died leaving only 175 pounds. His ideas were at their most popular in the first two decades of the 20th century, a time when sleeping in the fresh air on a verandah was very popular.

New Books in History  This is pretty hard-core history which assumes that one is on top of all the historiographical debates that surround the book being featured. In this case, it was Jeremy Black’s The World at War 1914-1945.  My word, what a productive historian Jeremy Black is, with 100 titles to his name – five in 2019 so far: no wonder he’s known as “the most prolific historical scholar of our age”. Anyway, he snipes at other historians, refutes the idea that the first and second world wars replicated each other, and argues that the Germans started it. This episode, steeped in military history, is very bloke-y and combative and this article, from the centre-right Standpoint magazine, tells more about this historian I’d never heard of.  This is not entertainment-light by any means, and I think you’d have to be interested in military and world history to really enjoy this.

Conversations (ABC)  Felafel and Fatherhood a rather lacklustre conversation with John Birmingham  who wrote He Died with a Felafel in his Hand (which I’ve never read) and has recently released On Father, one of those small ‘On…’ books. Not one of the better interviews.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-25 May 2019


Bunnins Sausage Sizzle Wikimedia

History Listen. We’ve just had an election here in Australia, and just about the only commentary that I can bear to listen to at the moment is the History Listen’s ‘Unauthorized history of the sausage sizzle.’ More than just the democracy sausage, it includes Lions and Bunnings sausage sizzles and a brief history of the humble snag.



Somewhat more serious is their episode ‘Escape from Iran‘ where the narrator tells her mother’s story of escaping from Iran after the revolution on account of her Baha’i faith, and the family’s life in Australia.


Grenfell Tower Fire Source: Wikimedia

The Documentary (BBC) This is a wonderful trove of podcasts! Flat 113 at Grenfell Tower is a wonderful (if rather distressing) piece of story telling about the fire that engulfed the 14th floor of the Grenfell Tower building in London. Taking just one floor (and yes, I know that Flat 113 was on the 14th floor, even though the numbering suggests otherwise- just a symptom of the questionable renovation of this public housing), the podcast traces through the sequence of events and mis-steps that led to several deaths in Flat 113.

Order!Order! is a look back at the Brexit question. Somehow 31 October is drawing closer again and still the whole sorry saga goes on.

Bolivia’s Mennonites, Justice and Renewal tells the story of the extremely conservative Mennonite communities who have established themselves in Bolivia since the 1920s. Almost Amish in appearance, they speak a form of low German, and they eschew modernity (although, as the documentary points out, there are now break-away communities which take a more liberal and modern approach).  In 2009 more than 100 women and children reported rapes within the community, for which a group of men were convicted, but within the traditional Mennonite groups there are attempts to have the sentences overturned.

Slavery’s Untold Story. Did you know that the Cherokees held slaves? After the Civil War, these slaves were liberated as ‘freemen’, but in recent years as people of Cherokee origin are encouraged to reconnect with their culture, a document from the 1860s is crucial in establishing claims to be admitted as full members of the Cherokee tribe. The waters are muddied by the casino money and entitlements that attach to Cherokee identity, and prejudices against African American appearance amongst people who also hold Cherokee heritage.

99% Invisible. From the 1950s up until the collapse of Communism, Russian theatre-goers were exposed to a steady diet of Bollywood movies. Part of it was that the Russian government wanted an alternative to Hollywood, but this documentary suggests that there might have been cultural affinities between Russia and India as well.  From Bombay with Love is well produced and interesting.

New Books in History  The podcasts here are very low-tech, and involve a historian talking about their recently released book. In Reforming Sodom: Protestants and Gay Rights, Heather R. White looks at both the liberal, reforming Christianity in the UK and US of the 1970s onwards (think: Unitarian Universalism and ‘Love Finds a Way’; the churches’ response to Stonewall etc) , and conservative Pentecostal Christianity of more recent decades (think Israel Folau), and their differing responses to homosexuality.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 May 2019

Forest 404 (BBC) I don’t know quite how I got onto this, but somehow or other it ended up on my phone. I don’t even quite know what it is: I think that there are stories, (of which this Episode 1 is the first) that are linked to soundscapes and related talks. Anyway, this first episode is set in the 24th century when a librarian, Pan, is charged not with conserving but destroying sound files from the 21st century, which are taking up too much storage space. After the Cataclysm (which waits to be explained), data storage space was recognized as finite, so all the sounds of the past, e.g. a Barak Obama speech, the words when man first walked on the moon etc, are being expunged. Then Pan comes across a recording of a rainforest, and even though she doesn’t know what it is, she finds herself drawn towards it.  I don’t know if I’ll persist with this, but the concept of ‘sound’ as artefact is ideal for the podcasting medium.

99% Invisible. Pharmaceutical companies direct their energies towards diseases where they are going to make profits – big profits. This program, Orphan Drugs is actually from November 2018, and it looks at the drugs that pharmaceutical companies decide not to continue manufacturing, even though they may have been life-changing for a small number of people. It tells the story of Abbey Meyers, whose son suffered with Tourette’s Syndrome, who finds herself as an advocate for orphan drugs, trying to lobby government and drug companies to continue to make these no-longer-lucrative drugs available. Of all people who stepped in to help with Jack Klugman and his brother, from Quincy M. E. (remember that?) who used the program to highlight the issue. But, as Abbey Meyers, be careful what you wish for. The resultant Orphan Drugs legislation, which she spent decades lobbying for, has had unintended consequences.

dopesick_macyConversations (ABC) And while we’re on the subject of Big Pharma, the estimable Richard Fidler interviewed Beth Macy, the author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America.  In ‘Taking the Pulse of a Dopesick Nation‘, she tells the story of how drugs like oxycontin etc. were falsely marketed as being slow-release and therefore non-addictive, as the memory of the dangers of prescription medicine receded and ‘pain’ began to be seen as a treatable condition in its own right again in the 1990s.  The information that came with these prescription drugs warned not to break the coating of the pill, because, as it happened, it was only the coating that made them slow release. Ironically, she sees the only solution in treating addiction as a medical problem and using other drugs as a way of treating the ‘dopesick’ feeling after coming off these drugs, because abstinence and all-or-nothing thinking just doesn’t work. Very interesting and makes you disgusted at the lack of morals of Big Pharma.

While I was there at Conversations, I also heard Susan Orleans (who wrote The Orchid Thief) telling the story of the burning of the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 – something that certain escapes my memory. Did you know that when books are wet, they either need to be dried out within 48 hours or frozen? That’s how thousands of books ended up in meat storage freezing facilities for years. You can hear it at ‘When the Library Burned

And although there was nothing particularly new in it, ‘How a milkmaid with cowpox changed history‘ was quite interesting in that it brought together a lot of stories about disease and vaccination.

Background Briefing The Night Parrot is the Holy Grail for bird watchers, and there have been a number of programs on the ABC celebrating the ‘discovery’ of the Night Parrot by bird watcher John Young. But in this program ‘Flight of Fancy: the mysterious case of the Night Parrot’, there are now real questions about the veracity of this ‘find’, and I can only assume that Our ABC did its legals before broadcasting this program, made by Ann Jones from ‘Offtrack’.

The Documentary BBC World Service Well, this was depressing listening from two very different places in the world. ‘Polands Partisan Ghosts‘ is about the adoption by the far right of the ‘Cursed Soldiers’ who were responsible for murder and arson in the time immediately following the Second World War. ‘India’s Forbidden Love‘ is about inter-faith and inter-caste marriages that are running up against the prejudices of the past, fanned by increased religious/national identity. Poland and India couldn’t be more different, but the rise of intolerance cloaked in nationalism right across the world frightens me.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-8 May 2019

the-vagabond-papersRoyal Historical Society of Victoria. After reading Jill Giese’s The Maddest Place on Earth, I’ve become rather fascinated by the Vagabond, the alias for John Stanley James who also went by the name Julian Thomas.  The RHSV has a podcasts page with a list of recorded lectures over the last ten years or so. They’re taken direct from the lecture, so there are no bells and whistles here, but they’re a good way of catching up on things you might have missed – or as in the case of The Vagabond, of catching up on things that you didn’t know you were going to be interested in. In September 2016 RHSV hosted two speakers who contributed essays to the republished Vagabond Papers in 2016, supplementing the essay by Michael Cannon in the original 1969 edition. Robert Flippen, from Virginia, speaks about John Stanley James’ life in Virginia- a really engaging if somewhat evangelical talk. Willa McDonald, a lecturer in media from Macquarie University, talks about James’ career in New Caledonia, where he travelled as a journalist after his career faltered in Australia after such initial success. She speaks of him as a journalist, particularly in view of the immersive journalism that we’re used to today. The sound quality isn’t great- I found McDonald in particular a little hard to hear- but it’s all fascinating.

Russia if you’re listening (ABC). Oddly enough, I can’t find this program on the ABC website, but I can through the ABCListen app. Anyway, in episode 5 on 18 April he talked about Julian Assange, suggesting that Mueller would have a particular interest in him and his connections with Russia, and in episode 6 on 25th April, he talks about Trump’s lawyer and Mueller’s star witness Don McGahn- someone who’s been in the news a bit recently. Episode 7 looks at Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire and his contacts with Paul Manafort. The podcasts seem to be easing off on the excessive sound embellishments, which is good.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24- 30 April 2019

BBC World Outlook When I can’t sleep, I listen to BBC World. It repeats the news every half-hour and the accents of the presenters are very soothing. I’m usually vaguely interested in the stories, and if I’m interested enough, I look them up the next day. But last night, the program ‘How Did This Diver Cheat Death?” had me wide awake, almost unable to breathe for the tension. A diver in the North Sea, fixing oil drilling equipment on the sea bed, becomes entangled in the equipment. If the claustrophobia and darkness of Thai Cave rescue made you want to curl up inside (as it did for me), then this program will have the same effect. So perhaps listen to it at 2.00 in the afternoon, instead of 2.00 in the morning.

Sunday Extra (ABC) I always enjoy Correspondents’ Report, which has now been folded into the Sunday Extra program. This half-hour program has about three reports by ABC journalists from around the world, reporting on small, not-newsworthy events that encapsulate the place where they are living. In ‘The Last Days of the Islamic State’ Adam Harvey reports from the refugee camp at Deir ez Zor, Syria, where the women and children attached to ISIS are gathered, asking/demanding to be sent back to their home countries. He talks about toilets, something that I had wondered about, seeing all those rows of white UNHCR tents, and wondering what the sanitation was like. Just make sure you’re not eating while you’re listening to it, though

Big Ideas (ABC) An interesting program called ‘A Tale of two buildings’ about two ‘iconic’ Australian buildings: the Sydney Opera House and Australian Parliament House. I can remember sailing into Sydney Harbour, all the way from Melbourne! in 1970. (I was with a neighbour’s family and the mother of the family had ear problems which made flying difficult). I can remember being fascinated by the Sydney Opera House, which was still a few years off opening, at a time when the biggest talking point was still the sheer expense of it all. Helen Pitt, the author of the book “The House” (about the Opera House) and Ric Thorp, the Australian face of the international design company Mitchell Giurgola Thorp, that designed Parliament House, speak about these two buildings.  Thorp has some strong words about the mooted mega-expansion of the Australian War Memorial, which, as he points out, is a memorial, not a museum.

Conversations. I’ve just finished reading Jill Giese’s excellent Maddest Place on Earth. She talks with Sarah Konowski about the book in the program ‘Undercover at the Asylum’. It’s such a wide-ranging interview, that you barely need to read the book, but you’d be short-changing yourself because it’s a damned good read. But if you can’t, then listen to this.